We are celebrating Major League Baseball’s Opening Day! Stubby Currence added so much to the legacy of baseball, especially in Four Seasons Country.
“Sorrell was lured back to Bluefield, West Virginia, one year after his big-league career ended. According to his son, Sorrell and sportswriter Stubby Currence had maintained a close friendship since the pitcher’s coalfield league days in 1924. Currence persuaded Sorrell to pitch for the Bluefield Blue-Grays, recently admitted to the Class D Mountain State League. Down-to-earth and level-headed, Sorrell was a popular, beloved figure in the town of 25,000 residents. He took the mound for the Blue-Grays in his final three years of professional baseball (1938-40), went 26-11, and managed the club in in 1939 and ’40. He announced his retirement after the 1940 season, and 15 years in Organized Ball. In his ten years with the Tigers he was 92-101, logging 1,671⅔ innings with a 4.43 ERA.” -Gregory H. Wolf
I wanted to let you know I’ve started to curate more Stubby information on Pinterest. The pins include news articles and full columns of Stubby’s writings as they existed in print.
The Dad once told me about a cold day in April when he was leaving Bluefield. It was 1981 – the day after his father Stubby’s funeral. He pulled the car into a gas station to fill up before driving his family back 400 miles back to Cincinnati, and he came face-to-face with his pop. Stubby’s photo glanced up at him from the trash can. It was his obituary on the front page of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
He said grief came over him in that moment. It brought it home that Stubby was literally and figuratively yesterday’s news. A family lost its patriarch. A town lost a significant champion. But sons lost their father. A wife lost her partner. Co-workers lost a friend.
Unfortunately, the grief is back. We recently lost The Dad. Like many deaths, it was a long time coming but too sudden, too soon. The Dad loved to tell stories about the sports scene he grew up in. He loved reminiscing about the neighborhood baseball games in which he played while living on Pen Mar. He was devoted to the 1959 Bluefield Beavers Football State Champs until the very end. He put West Virginia Mountaineers stickers on anything that wouldn’t move.
Even though we don’t have The Dad anymore doesn’t mean his stories are done being told, or our stories here are over. Even though the newsprint has long been recycled, the memories are old and dusty, and those we have loved may have gone on, we still have their stories to tell.
And Dad, I’ll miss you.
I love a good sassing, don’t you? I found this gem by Duke Ridgley, the longtime sports editor of the Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch and the man credited with nicknaming Marshall University the Thundering Herd.
Ripley-It-Or Not, Virgil (Stubby) Currence, the Beau Brummel of Bluefield and the man who annually picks the All-State High School Basketball Team, is the youngest athlete ever to captain a college baseball team in the United States. You Don’t believe it? Well-l-l, it’s as true as Truth. At the ender age of 16 Mr. C was captain and shortstop of the Davis & Elkins club. That was the year D & E had a perfect season on the diamond. They played nine games and lost all nine of ’em..And for dragging this skeleton out of the closet I have reserved a place for myself behind the No. “8” ball in “Stubby’s” dog house.
Race car driving was a big interest for Stubby. His personal papers included lots of photos of cars zooming on race tracks, plumes of smoke billowing up. So the death of “Smiling Hub” Hunter, a Bluefield race car driver who died in 1924, must have personally affected him, since he put the press clippings in his personal photo album.
Below is the full text of two articles, including Hub’s obituary. Stubby (as Virgil Currence) is listed as one of the many “flower bearers” at the end of the second article.
What I don’t know: Not sure these articles appeared in the Daily Telegraph or the Sunset News or who wrote them, since there are no bylines. It is possible Stubby wrote them—he was reporting by 1924 and it does have his typical writing flair.
Sometimes it’s easy to detach yourself when reading about past tragedies, but loss is evident even reading this today. The writing helps set the scene, but it is much more graphic than what gets printed now.
Below are my favorite excerpts based on the writing. I’m making it my mission to bring back the word “machine” for “car”. That’s just classic, don’t you think?
- “Smiling Hub” Hunter, as his followers on the tracks of the south affectionately called him, went smiling to his death. The last mental picture the thousands have of the race driver is the broad smile as he ate the dust of his brother George’s machine and endeavored to circle him on the corner.
- There were hopes he might not be dead. Upon arriving at St. Luke’s Hospital one glance at the victim by the doctors ended the hopes—and the ambulance proceeded on to Hawkin’s morgue.
- It is probable Hunter had lost to he Grim Reaper before the car stopped.
- It was the first time in the history of the rack a race driver has paid the extreme penalty to the gods of the speed.
- There was a deep touch of sorrow in the hearts of those who had known the young man personally as they stood and witnessed his friends of the fire department and race tracks place the heaving casket in the bed of the old Seagrave and start with him on his last drive. It was a call that had to be answered, but the absence of “Hub” Hunter at the wheel was felt. The truck-bed was lined with deep mourning; two American flags hung from the ladders and on the radiator cap was tied a piece of crape. Hub had always been conspicuous as the pilot of this machine. During the winter months when the old Seagrave would come dashing thought the ice-covered streets in response to a midnight alarm, Hub Hunter was often seen wearing nothing more than his pants and boots and a thin summer undershirt and smiling at the zero weather.
- As the cortege reached the cemetery the remains were carried to the grave, which was at a point which overlooks the beautiful surrounding territory and from which place the cemetery “Monte Vista,” took its name.
- Then the post bugler played taps and the World War veteran entered upon this peaceful sleep. Many of his friends, who had held up well during the service, broke down as the notes of the bugle floated off across the valley and resounded in the echo.
Click “More” to read the full text. Continue reading
The Dad says this was taken when he was in college, circa 1964. It’s summertime because Stubby is in his two-tone summer shoes. I love how the paper is tucked under his arm. This picture was taken in front of their house in Bluefield, W.Va.
I wanted to post this photo as the first entry as a reminder that this journey is all about family. I’ll admit upfront I really don’t know much about sports, which I’m sure Stubby is disappointed about from heaven. But as a fellow writer, I understand how important words really are, and how they can change the world. And even I know sports are about the people, their stories and triumphs.
For this blog, I’m hoping to share some photos and memories of my grandpa but also learn more about my family. So let’s get this Stubby Currence Project started!
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